The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)
Rated PG13

Starring: Vin Diesel, Colm Feore, and Thandie Newton

out of

The role that propelled Vin Diesel into the limelight was that of Richard Riddick, a psychotic killer who can see in the dark, in the 1999 sleeper hit, Pitch Black. That film featured a somewhat interesting plot gimmick and a fair amount of action to tell its tale of the anti-hero Riddick. Now, five years later, Diesel returns to the role of Riddick in The Chronicles of Riddick which veers away from Pitch Black's sci-fi/horror trappings into a planet hopping space-epic. Pitch Black was a low-budget affair with relatively few special effects but The Chronicles of Riddick is an overblown CGI fan's wet dream.

Five years after escaping death in Pitch Black, Riddick is evading mercenaries trying to claim a large bounty that's been placed on his head. It turns out that the bounty has been placed by someone trying to recruit Riddick to fight the Necromongers, a collection of "half alive, half dead" warriors led by the Lord Marshal (Colm Feore). Riddick, who never seems to fight for reasons other than his own, refuses the offer until, of course, the fight becomes personal. Various circumstances find Riddick traveling to a hellish planet aptly named Cremetoria and finding Kyra, the young girl from Pitch Black, although she's now older and much more lethal.

The Chronicles of Riddick is a true epic in terms of ideas. The execution, however, leaves a little to be desired. The action sequences, for some reason, are filmed in a disjointed, time-expanding, slow-motion that neither creates suspense or enhances the impact of what's going on. It merely confuses things by keeping the viewer from being able to put together a cohesive picture of what's happening until the film resumes normal speed and the results are displayed. For a movie that's made up of a large number of violent scenes, this is not a good thing.

After watching films that are so totally devoid of even a single original idea that they just slop CGI effects onto the screen with sheer abandon in a vain attempt to wow viewers into liking something about the movie -- like Van Helsing -- I liked the fact that Riddick didn't take itself seriously but still managed to keep things moving in a direction that I cared enough to find out where it was going. I didn't even mind that the film introduces characters and then doesn't seem to know what to do with them, like the Elemental Aereon, played by Judi Dench, and the little girl Ziza that seems to warm up to Riddick at the beginning of the film.

Nonetheless, I walked away from The Chronicles of Riddick appreciating more than I could complain about. It's not great, but you could do much worse for a summer film.

Trivia: Vin Diesel wanted Judi Dench to play Aereon, and went to great lengths to get her. A long-time fan of Dench, he had her dressing room filled with bouquets of flowers, and also advised her that they could not begin casting the movie until she agreed to accept the role. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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